Confessions of a Yoga Teacher is an ongoing series I write about my experiences as a yoga teacher and yoga student. Some posts are more serious, some are more light-hearted. Mostly, they're conversation starters, and I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section of the posts, if you'd like to share.
A few weeks ago I attended a much-needed restorative yoga workshop with aromatherapy. There were three teachers. Two kept switching off to lead us through each yin pose, and one talked to us about the benefits of each aromatherapy scent.
We were a full house - probably thirty students - and I was at the very back of the room. The teachers had set up the class so that one of them would walk around with the essential oil, putting it near each student's nose for three breaths while the aromatherapy teacher would discuss the benefits of each scent and the third teacher would sit off to the side, waiting to put us into the next pose. It was a beautiful workshop really, except that I couldn't hear a thing the teachers at the front of the room were saying.
As many of you know, I have a Master's degree in secondary education and while I am no longer a classroom school teacher, I find that I call upon my background in education often - especially when it comes to yoga instruction.
One of the things we were taught in grad school was that as a teacher, you never, ever want to be a statue teaching from the front of the room. Moving around the room is ideal because you keep your students engaged and on their toes, and you can see whether or not they're following along. In addition, it gives everyone in the room an opportunity to hear you if you're not someone who remembers to project your voice (but dammit, try).
Full disclosure: While I had taken a break from work during this particular time, I was attending the workshop with hopes to learn something I might be able to incorporate into my own workshops and to broaden my knowledge. I've always been interested in aromatherapy and was particularly curious about the various benefits of the scents the teacher had chosen.
Unfortunately, the teachers spoke so softly that I couldn't understand a thing they was saying and since they were staying at the front of the room while they spoke, I truly lost out on being able to hear them at all. As the third teacher came around with the next scent to smell, I lifted my head and quietly whispered, "When you go back to the front, would you mind asking the teachers at the front to speak up? I can't quite hear what they're saying." My request was quiet, polite and respectful.
She put her hand on my back and said in her velvety voice, "No. You'll hear what you need to hear, don't worry."
It felt like I was being patronized. It felt like my concern was being ignored. And immediately, my heart started to race.
All these things started bubbling up for me, and it felt a lot like the time I took a workshop with a (less-than-stellar) so-called rockstar famous yogi.
I'd paid $45 for this restorative workshop. I was there for continuing education. I was there to practice, yes, but I was also there to learn. And I couldn't learn the benefits of the scents if I couldn't hear what the teacher was saying.
I took a deep breath and tried to maintain my composure because honestly I've been under so much stress in my personal life that I really didn't need any more. I waited a beat as I took a deep breath, and said, "Ok, well the thing is, I literally cannot hear what's being said."
And she smiled and whispered, "It's ok," and got up and walked away.
No, it's really not okay.
The appropriate response, in my opinion, would've been to simply say, "Sure."
It's just good teaching and it's just good business. And sorry, but with the way science works, I can't just expect to 'hear what I need to hear' when my teachers' voices are too low.
It might've been different if it were a particular pose and I complained that I couldn't feel a stretch. Then, it might've been appropriate for the teacher to check out my alignment, make any changes, and then say, "Ok well if you're not feeling it, it's ok - you're still doing it correctly - perhaps you're just already quite open in the area that we're stretching in," and then walk away. That's essentially a nice way of saying, "Ok, I hear what you're saying, but I can't do anything for you."
But when a student simply cannot hear what you're saying, it's not ok to ignore their request to speak up. How is the student supposed to get themselves into the proper alignment? How is the student supposed to learn so she can help spread the word about the amazing practice you just lead?
I was irritated by the flowery-talk brush off. I was frustrated that I spent top dollar on a workshop and wasn't able to walk away with much useful information that I can implement in the future. But more than that, I felt patronized, which I feel is the opposite of what yoga is all about.
I'd love to hear your thoughts. Was I simply being too sensitive? What would you have said if you were the teacher? If you were the student and couldn't hear, would you have asked the teachers to speak up?